U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today opposed the partisan GOP bill that rolls back important protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. The bill is significantly different than the Senate passed Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization. The Senate version passed with a bipartisan vote of 68 to 31 and upholds the tradition of VAWA Reauthorizations being bipartisan and working to ensure all victims of domestic and sexual violence should be protected.
"We absolutely cannot sit back and watch these long-standing, important protections for victims of domestic violence and assault be taken away," said Rep. Kind. "As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to maintain these protections. We've got to ensure safety measures are in place and resources available for the security of everyone in our communities."
Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has helped protect victims of domestic and sexual violence. It has twice been reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support, each time with important improvements to strengthen VAWA. Since the passage of the Act, annual incidents of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent.
H.R. 4970, the House GOP version of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization, fails to include important improvements to the Clery Act, found in the Senate-passed bill, that address the high rates of dating violence and sexual assault experienced by young people. The bill also directly discriminates against specific populations by failing to protect all people regardless of status, race, or sexual orientation.
"Almost two decades of protection would take a large step backwards with the passage of this bill," said Mary Kay Wolf, Executive Director of the YWCA of La Crosse. "Eliminating these critical provisions would remove important protections for some of the most vulnerable women in our communities. We cannot afford to take that risk."
"There shouldn't be winners and losers -- everyone deserves protection and safety, no matter their background," said Gerald Wilkie, Executive Director of Bolton Refuge House in Eau Claire. "It is absolutely not acceptable to deny these important protections, everyone deserves to be safe. It's not fair to play political games with people's lives. Instead, we should be working together for the common good of all people."
"As an agency that provides lifesaving services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in our community, I can tell you that HR 4970 will divert time, money and energy away from direct services to vulnerable victims," said Joanne Rausch, Executive Director of Passages, Inc. domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in Richland Center. "At a time when domestic violence agencies are facing increasing budget constraints and more requests for help, HR 4970, as it is currently written, will actually make it more difficult to serve victims in our community.
"The bill weakens, rather than enhances, protections for victims of domestic violence," said Ann Kappauf, Executive Director of New Horizons Shelter & Outreach Centers in La Crosse. "The network of survivors and advocates who work on a daily basis with courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, shelters, academic and medical institutions need VAWA's tools -- its laws and programs -- to help keep victims safe."
More than 100 organizations oppose the House GOP bill, including such groups as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Break the Cycle, Legal Momentum, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, YWCA USA, AAUW, Business and Professional Women's Foundation, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Bar Association, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Human Rights Campaign, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and National Congress of American Indians.